Short-Story Month, Day # 10. I Love a Mystery.

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By Jeff Baker

I’ve loved mystery short-stories for decades. Let’s start with Greg Herren’s “Annunciation Shotgun,” (which appears in New Orleans Noir.) Set in the post-Katrina New Orleans the author knows so well, if it was an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” the viewer would be screaming at the main character through the screen; every decision the man makes gets him deeper and deeper into trouble, disaster and danger. But the first clue that the man was in dire peril came from the fact that he is in a Greg Herren story. Characters in Herren’s stories are usually in too deep by the time they realize they are in at all. Herren’s short-stories are gripping (he has a collection out: “Survivor’s Guilt,” https://www.amazon.com/Survivors-Guilt-Other-Stories-Suspense/dp/1635554136/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=Herren%2C+Survivor%27s+Guilt&qid=1557555521&s=books&sr=1-1-fkmrnullwhich is well worth it.) and he is just as good as a novelist.

I’m a big fan of whodunnits and classic stories, and Isaac Asimov wrote a series of short-stories about “The Black Widowers,” about a dining club who are inevitably confronted by a mystery or puzzle during the course of their monthly meetings. The stories are ingenious and fun and very much “fair play” mysteries where the reader has a shot at solving the puzzle themselves in stories like “Sixty Million Trillion Combinations,” “The Haunted Cabin” and “Triple Devil.” And so many more.

Melville Davisson Post wrote some of the best American detective stories in the time between Poe and Agatha Christie and his character Uncle Abner is the best. Abner, a Virginia landowner who lives in the early 1800s believes it is “a world filled with the mysterious justice of God,” and acts to see that justice is done and the innocent protected. In “The Doomsdorf Mystery,” Abner must deduce how a killer could have scaled a sheer wall and entered through a window without disturbing the dusty cobwebs on the window! There is some politically incorrect language in the stories but Abner’s attitudes are startlingly progressive for stories written a century ago.

 

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